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The Marriage of Figaro at KC’s Lyric Opera

It’s an unexpectedly pleasant thing that I have come to expect good things from Kansas City’s Lyric Opera. Rarely have I felt like this company has delivered the best operatic performances, but it seldom rates as the worst either.

This weekend I was lucky enough to be taken to see the latest production of this opera by my wife and son for a birthday present (amazingly, Figaro has come on or near my birthday many years now). I don’t think I’ve properly thanked them for this gift, but I very much appreciate it and had a great time.

My favorite part of the Lyric’s production this year was the return to a traditional setting but with a spectacular set design that suggested the change in aristocracy occurring at the time while still delivering on a class-stratified society complete with the trappings of a legacy of what we now call old money. The co-production with Opera Philadelphia, San Diego Opera and Palm Beach Opera truly delivered in this respect.

 

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An excellent effort! But, how does one say … ?

Unfortunately, the performance, while uniformly good, failed to achieve greatness at any point. On the ride home, we all agreed that it was a perplexing combination of all members of the cast ‘delivering’ but still missing the mark. I personally believe that Figaro is one of the more laugh-out-loud funny operas you can see. But where the comedy of Cheribino’s  near-capture and incredible escape and coverup should have brought down the house, I think I merely smiled.

 

Figaro is written for show-stealing performances. In its original production – in contrast to the portrayal in Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, there were so many encores in its premier showings that Emporer Joseph insisted that these be limited due to the already long running time of the performance. Cheribino, a soprano en travesti, is almost uniformly the most beloved character in the Opera delivering two perfect arias, Non so più cosa son and Voi che sapete che cosa è amor voicing his struggle to keep up with his wildly raging hormones. Samantha Gossard gave a lovely performance that was well done, but oddly unextraordinary. 

 

Bartolo and Marcellina are two other characters who almost uniformly steal the show for their comedic performances. In last evening’s performance, the two were delightful, but also failed to win the night. One exception to all the ‘merely solid’ performances was the scene in which it is revealed that Figaro is Rafaello, the long-lost illegitimate son of Bartolo and Marcellina. Amazingly, it wasn’t the two older players who made the scene work, but the Count who brought everything together in his whole-hearted display of despair in ever figuring out what the hell was going on around him. In fact, I would say that it was Baritone Edward Parks’ Count Almaviva who rose above all others to make the night a success.

Overall, I’d say the Lyric’s Figaro was a musical success surrounded by beautiful sets, but inhabited by mundane performances.

ps – bring back the chair.

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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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iTunes Matching followup #1

iTunes Music Match is a service offered by Apple to extend their reach into the music business even further than before. If you’re old enough, you may remember that there is another company called Apple, Apple Corps, in the music business. If you need a hint, think of the illustration in the center of your Beatles albums – one side was a green apple, the other was of the same apple sliced in half.

Would you rather install your program from a floppy disk or a cassette tape?

Would you rather install your program from a floppy disk or a cassette tape?

Back in 1978, Apple Corps sued Apple Computers over the name and finally settled in 1981 with a payment to Apple Corps and an agreement that Apple Computers would not enter the music market. At the time, apple was selling the Apple II Plus with coming with a whopping 48k of memory installed.

By way of understanding what 48k can hold, one minute of CD quality music runs about 1MB – compressed. The ability to play something as awesome as the Mario Brothers theme music was still a good four years away.

So, safe bet, Apple.

Music did, however, enter the picture eventually. In 2001, Apple launched a music management service you may have heard of. They called it iTunes, and 14 years later, almost everyone is still using it.

But I’m getting distracted. A couple of weeks ago, I decided that iTunes music match might be the best way for my family to manage our bloated and fragmented music collections. I was dubious.

I’ve had time to play with it a bit now and I thought it was a good time to check in. One thing Apple is known for is simplicity, unfortunately, iTunes is becoming so large, and managing so many types of media that this does get in the way of clarity. The other

click this image for The Atlantic's article on what made Clippy such a hated icon

Click this image for The Atlantic’s article on what made Clippy such a hated icon

con is that Apple Music is a separate service that provides instant access to a wealth of music following a model something more like Pandora or Spotify. I didn’t want that service, but I do find that Apple keeps asking me, “Is this what you’re looking for! Sign up for a three month trial today!” Frankly, that’s almost as annoying as Microsoft’s Clippy.

The cons break down to clarity. But a little bit of intuition and practice worked that out for me.

The pros are that every machine in our household now has access to our combined music collection. Further, each computer doesn’t have to duplicate this file space in its own storage because as long as you have an internet connection, you can stream anything in your library. If you expect that you won’t have internet, or you want to go on the road and not be hit with data limitations, you can download anything from the library to any of your devices and have it there when you need it later.

One thing I still have not figured out is an easy way to combine your music libraries in a way that eliminates duplicate files and makes it easier to get all of your music ‘Matched.’ There are third party organizers that will do this for you – some of them quite well (Wondershare TunesGo is one example), but having paid once to get your music organized, it’s not an attractive option to pay twice.Recall that my primary reason for subscribing to iTunes Match is to organize and combine our family’s music in one place that we can all access.

It’s entirely possible that Apple has solved this last problem already and I just don’t know it – however, that’s another problem in itself.

If Apple could help with the organization (perhaps have a ‘load library’ function where you can simply point to the various libraries you wish to add?) and make the iTunes Match a bit more distinct a function from Apple Music, I would become a hardcore fan. Presently, I would say, proceed with caution and know what you’re getting into. On a scale of 1-10, I call iTunes Match a 7.5, with a possibility of jumping up to 10 with a few tweaks.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Holy Smoke: PiL at the Troc

Johnny Lydon

Johnny Lydon

It looks like Johnny Rotten had to sit down through this one. But give the guy a break, he’s nearly 60 and it’s not like he’s treated his body like the temple that other aging rockers like Keith Richards have.

The new Public Image Limited release “Double Trouble” from their album ‘What the World needs Now’ rages against the unreliability of  appliances and a general distaste for cuddling.

If you’re in Philadelphia, get your tickets to see them at the Troc on November 11, you lucky dogs.

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Hey, I could be wrong…

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Pomplamoose – on making a living as 21st century artists

You have to wonder how anyone could think it is possible to make a living making music. Those at the top may as well have been born there – not because they didn’t have to work hard to get where they are, but because the number of artists who have ‘made it’ is so small that it may as well be limited to the winners of the PowerBall Lottery.

Pomplamoose is duo (Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn) making music and videos (I find it hard to imagine either one without the other) and doing the occasional tour. Last year (2014), Pomplamoose put together a 28 day tour around the US and then wrote up a summary of the accounting for the tour to illustrate how difficult it can be to make ends meet even for a relatively famous band (I admit that using the word ‘relatively’ could mean almost anything).

You can find Jack’s accounting of the tour and how their net loss of about $11,000 is just the price of doing business and building a fan base here. You can also check out Jack’s other project, Patreon, where normal people, like you and me, can be patrons of the arts.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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It’s my emotional support animal… I have a letter.

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click the llama

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Back to School: Zombies, Ebola and some cool tunes

Ebola is in the news a lot right now.

Could this be The Coming Plague that Laurie Garret warned us about in 1994?

By the late 1980s, with the world shaken by the strangest and deadliest arrival of all – HIV and AIDS – Garrett traveled widely in search of understanding: Why did new viruses and bacteria appear, seemingly out of nowhere? Why couldn’t modern medicine vanquish HIV and other newly emerging microbes? How were scientists battling these diseases? Had hubris put the arrogant biomedical world of the late 20th Century at peril?

– from her website

A recent depiction (below) of the rise of Ebola cases and deaths (cumulative numbers) appears on the wikipedia site.

Diseased_Ebola_2014

The CDC is probably the most reliable source of information on the virus today. They provide a wealth of information about the virus, including that infection does not spread through the air, water or food (with the possible exception of some bushmeat – likely bats acting as a reservoir for the virus). And further, although Ebola does have a frighteningly long incubation period (of about 21 days), there is no evidence that asymptomatic persons can spread the disease.

When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. The virus is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with

  • a sick person’s blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen)

  • objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected body fluids

  • infected animals

In recent news, two items sound eerily similar to those scrolling across the newswire in the game Pandemic 2:

August 8, 2014 – Experts at the World Health Organization declare the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa an international health emergency that requires a coordinated global approach, describing it as the worst outbreak in the four-decade history of tracking the disease.

August 19, 2014 – Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declares a nationwide curfew beginning August 20 and orders two communities to be completely quarantined, with no movement in or out of the areas.

With all this in mind, maybe it’s a good time to pack up your emergency preparedness kit. And, while you’re at it, check out this comic from the CDC to help determine what you need to include:

Zombie_GN_Final

Imagine a ven diagram illustrating preparedness. How prepared should you be for flooding? fire? tornado? active shooter? zombies?? If you’re prepared for the apocalypse, surely you can handle a flood.

prepared

While you’re huddled in the basement waiting for the threat to pass, enjoy some music to keep your spirits up.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Education, Uncategorized

 

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It’s not just the ears. They eye’s have it too.

The Hair of the Dog post I wrote last week came from my own tendency to play depressing music when I am feeling down and how this technique does not seem to be doing me any good. According to the article I cited, this may put me in the ruminator category of folks who try to use this music to list their spirits (or at least hope that it may), but fail at escaping the downward spiral.

ImageAbout the same time, I was watching Penn and Teller’s show about the BS we often believe in, but that is seldom true. In the episode I watched, they brought up the way color also feeds into our psyche making us tend to want to eat or not depending on the colors and pairings. They pointed to the ubiquity of red and yellow in fast food signs, logos and buildings to support their claim that franchises were exploiting this aspect of out brain’s wiring. The visual communication guy, a graphic art consultant, writes about this on his site, referring to it as the ketchup and mustard effect. Another design blog demonstrates how often this is used by listing a sampling of fast food logos like McDonald’s. Amongst the research journals, Satyendra Singh wrote a review of the literature supporting this conclusion for the Journal, Management Decision. Dr. Singh’s article proposes that, “managers can use colors to increase or decrease appetite, enhance mood, calm down customers, and, reduce perception of waiting time, among others.”

We would be fooling ourselves if we thought that we were not being constantly manipulated subconsciously by retailers, restaurants, and other marketers. Election campaign ads come to mind immediately) But how do you feel about this manipulation? Frankly, I think it’s just what I would expect – and moreover, exactly what I would do myself if it was my job to bring in and retain customers.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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